Pina is a film that is dedicated to choreographer Pina Bausch. Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, The Buena Vista Social Club) directed the film in collaboration with many people who have been influenced or taught by Pina. This is quite simply a film about modern dance with some new ways of bringing this type of dance to the movie-going audience.
The film is shot in 3D, which is unique because there are few documentaries shot in 3D, and this has to be the only dance film presented in this format. While there are no 3D gags, the film is enriched by filming in this format. There are shots that make you think you are in the audience of a theatre watching the performance with the rest of the crowd. This is complete with rows of heads on the screen that complete the experience. I would whole-heartedly support the continuation of using 3D in documentaries as I think it brings a level of depth to the film that is missing in 2D formats.
While the film is about Pina Bausch, the film does little to enlighten the audience about her apart from the occasional video of her talking or teaching. There are some dancers that are interviewed about her for a minute or two a piece, but this only serves to illustrate Pina’s influence on these individuals. I would have loved to have heard more about her and her life, but this is missing. If you do not know anything about Pina Bausch, then you will be as mystified as I. This is not a documentary on Pina’s life, but more of a documentation of the dance she influenced and taught.
If modern dance is not something that interests you, this is not the film to see. The film is loaded with dances on the stage and in the natural environment. I appreciate modern dance, but I cannot read much into what the performance is supposed to be about or represent. The more formal dances that are on stage like “Café Müller” are surely meant to represent something, but I can only read so much into dancers flinging themselves into a plexiglass wall in the background. Reading the notes provided to the press for the film reveals more about the dances than what one could pick up from just seeing the film.
I really liked some of the dances that are in nature, with the exception of the dance in the creek with the fake hippo. No, I am not kidding about the hippo. There are also some beautiful dresses on some of the dancers that flowed beautifully as they danced. Some dances occur in the man-made, urban world in Germany. It is a stark contrast dancing beautifully on a busy street corner or on the above-ground subway.
There is an element of oddity to Pina that is hard to describe, and I do not understand where it comes from. Along with the aforementioned hippo, there is a scene in the subway that reminded me of the girl from The Ring complete with the long black hair in front of her face, the stance, and the odd robot movements. In the back of the subway is a man sitting, wearing cardboard alien ears. There is no shortage of weird things in the film, but they are indeed mixed with some beautiful scenes.
One could label Pina as an art-house film that not many will be drawn to, but Pina has gained enough recognition now with the Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature. While those who enjoy this form of dance and are familiar with Pina Bausch will probably enjoy the film and what it does, others may find it boring and bewildering. While I will admit that it has its moments of beauty, I found the film too long (103 minutes) and struggled to find any meaning or purpose to most of the dances. It also misses the chance to tell the audience about the woman who influenced the film and who it is named after. Rather than be titled Pina, it should have been called Pina’s Dances.
I give Pina 2 “envious dresses” out of 5.